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Marketing: What is the European Capital of Sport initiative and how does it work?

Each year, a European Capital of Sport and a number of European Cities of Sport are chosen in recognition of their commitments to promoting sport. We look at how they use their time in the limelight

Published in Sports Management Sep 2016 issue 126
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Gian F Lupattelli, president of ACES Europe says the organisation wants cities to produce a programme of 365 days of sport
Gian F Lupattelli, president of ACES Europe says the organisation wants cities to produce a programme of 365 days of sport

The Capital of Sport title is available to any European city with more than 500,000 inhabitants. The scheme was launched in 2001 by the European Cities and Capitals of Sports Federation (ACES Europe). Alongside the capital of sport, a number of cities of sport” are also chosen.

ACES Europe is a non-profit association based in Brussels and recognised by the European Commission. Winners are chosen much like Olympic hosts. A bid document is filed to ACES, whose assessors then conduct at least one site visit to the candidate city.

For a city’s application to be successful, it has to demonstrate it has used – and plans to further use – sport and physical activity to improve the quality of life and enhance the wellbeing of its citizens.

According to Gian Francesco Lupattelli, president of ACES, the purpose of the initiative is for cities to use the designations as badges of honor in recognition of the work they do in improving both lives and economies through sport.

“Cities receive no direct financial reward for the title,” says Lupattelli, “but it allows them to highlight the ways in which they’re using sport to improve health and wellbeing and advancing social inclusion and integration within their communities.”

With the titles come responsibilities. ACES Europe wants cities to use the accolade to drive increased levels of sports participation among residents.

“When awarding the titles, we look at the way cities are providing sports for all at grassroots level – from children to seniors and to people with disabilities,” Lupattelli says. “Our main goal is to help people who live in cities become more physically active by getting them to produce a programme of 365 days of sport.”

He adds that the main differences between the capital of sport and the cities of sport is their size. “Those chosen as cities of sport are smaller – they must have less than 500,000 inhabitants – but their ambitions to use sport for social good should be no less than those of the capital.

“And while there is only one capital of sport, the number of cities of sport has risen each year since 2001. In 2016, we have 18 across the continent.”

BENEFITS
Cities which have put the title to good use in recent times include Antwerp in Belgium – capital of sport during 2013. Figures show that during the year, there was a 10 per cent jump in grassroots sports participation, an increase credited directly to activities undertaken under the European Capital of Sport banner. The positive results also led to the City of Antwerp pledging to continue the increased levels of investment in sport for two further years, ensuring a lasting legacy from the campaign.

Another city to have held the title recently is Cardiff in Wales. The city used its tenure as Capital of Sport to attract interest in existing campaigns.

“The major benefit was having the title itself,” says Peter Bradbury, cabinet member for community development at Cardiff Council. “It highlighted the fact that Cardiff is a sporting city.

“At the time we were Capital of Sport, Cardiff City Football Club was playing in the Premier League, the city was bidding for the Euro 2020 football championships and we were preparing to host games at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“Having the title really added value to everything we did and helped us with the campaigns, programmes and the individual events we’re holding – particular at grassroots level. It was very useful to be able to badge the events with the ‘European Capital of Sport’ title. For example, we used the title as part of our campaigns to increase participation – and we know that really worked well.”

CAPITAL INVESTMENTS
This year’s Capital of Sport is the Czech capital Prague. For the past decade, the city has used the hosting of major sporting events as a catalyst for economic regeneration and to boost inbound tourism. Events hosted by Prague include the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships in 2015 and it also made a bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, but ultimately failed to make the shortlist for final voting.

According to Petr Dolínek, councillor for sport at Prague City Council, the city saw the opportunity to become Capital of Sport as a way of further strengthening its profile as an emerging destination for major events.

“In recent years, Prague has experienced a boom in new sport infrastructure and has attracted a number of big international events,” Dolinek says. “That was one of the reasons we applied for the title of  Capital of Sport – to build on the momentum we had created.

“We recognised that elite sport is important to the city, but we also wanted the year to be about grassroots sport. One of the things we did was to create a new sports portal on our website www.praha.eu, where people could more easily find events to attend in and around the city.”

During 2016, Prague will put on more than 400 events under the Capital of Sport banner, ranging from elite competitions, such as the Prague Marathon, to grassroots events. The city officials have also set an individual target for each resident.

“As we have already hit our previous target of having 60 per cent of the city’s inhabitants physically active, we set an alternative goal for every resident,” says Jan Wolf, Prague city councillor responsible for sport. “We want everyone to lose at least one kilogram of weight during the year”.

BRISTOL - CITY OF SPORT 2017
Bristol is among the cities whose tenure as a European City of Sport is still ahead of them. It will hold the title throughout 2017, following a successful bid by the Bristol Partnership for Sport and Active Recreation.

Colin Sexstone, chair of the partnership, said: “It’s a great honour and 2017 will be an exciting opportunity for Bristol to develop its growing reputation as a hub for sport, both nationally and internationally.

“We will use the year as a catalyst to promote the importance of healthy lifestyles, to increase participation in sport and active recreation in the city.

“We’ve got all of the main players together in this partnership, so we have got a huge amount of support, and we are ready to make sport work harder and do more for everyone who lives and works here.”

As a curtain raiser to the year, the mayor of Bristol has dedicated funding from his discretionary grants to contribute towards black and minority ethnic sport groups in the city. Focus will also be placed on women and girls. The year aims to build on the success of the Bristol Girls Can campaign and other projects aimed at encouraging more people to get active.

MARSEILLE - CAPITAL OF SPORT 2017
The capital of sport for 2017 is Marseille and according to Jean-Claude Gaudin, the city’s mayor, the official programme for the year – to be unveiled in December – will focus on three main objectives: promoting economic development; strengthening social cohesion; and investing in sporting infrastructure.

“Being Capital of Sport will be a major opportunity,” he says. “It will inject energy and dynamism into our efforts to improve social cohesion in our city.“

According to Lupattelli, Bristol and Marseille are good examples of how different cities can benefit from the initiative in different ways.

“It is down to the individual cities how much they want to benefit from the title,” he says. “Marseille has plans to invest €10m in new infrastructure and a further €10m towards activities for the year.

“Being recognised by as a capital or city of sport gives them a stamp of authority – they can say ‘we do special things here’”

An anatomy of a City of Sport – Stoke 2016

Stoke hosted two high-profile elite cycling events during June the Aviva Women’s Tour and the Pearl Izumi Tour Series
Stoke hosted two high-profile elite cycling events during June the Aviva Women’s Tour and the Pearl Izumi Tour Series
Terry Follows,

Cabinet Member for Leisure,

Stoke-on-Trent City Council


Pictured:Terry Follows

What did Stoke want to gain from the title?
Our aims in becoming City of Sport 2016 were to improve the health and wellbeing of the local population and to support the city’s ongoing regeneration by helping to create a positive external image.

To support these aims, a number of objectives were outlined, such as working with the city’s entire network of providers to increase the volume and range of high quality opportunities available for the public to participate in physical activity.

We also set out to attract additional visitors to the city through opportunities to participate in or attend sporting events or use high quality sports facilities located within the city.

What have the benefits been during 2016?
The city’s profile has increased due to significant media exposure from national, trade and local media and there has been a positive economic impact – events, activities and programmes are contributing to the city and wider county economy, supporting local jobs and businesses.

In financial terms, the designation has helped secure a significant level of support, including £3.5m in city council funding to facilitate the programme of events and activities, as well as attract further investment from partners and funders.

There has also been around £750,000 worth of external funding to secure ‘ParkLives’ status and fund the delivery of sport, health and wellbeing activity across 10 of the city’s parks. A further £245,000 was received from the Spirit of 2012 initiative as part of the ‘Get Out Get Active’ programme, to fund inclusive sporting activity in partnership with the English Federation of Disability Sport.

The status is also being used as a platform to promote the city with a view to attracting new business and/or inward investment. There is also civic pride – positivity among residents and a raised level of aspiration.

What lasting effects will the title have?
All elements of the 2016 initiative have been planned and are being executed in a manner designed to help create a legacy for the city. This includes funding and resources being rolled over to subsequent years (until 2018) to help support some key events and initiatives in maturing and become sustainable.

City of Stoke’s new Physical Activity and Sports Strategy will also play a key part in ensuring a legacy is delivered for the people of Stoke on Trent as a result of the city’s designation as European City of Sport 2016

Stoke has used the City of Sport title to bring investment into the region
Stoke has used the City of Sport title to bring investment into the region
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